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Trying to Lose Weight? Don’t Count on Artificial Sweeteners for Help

If you have been trying to cut back on sugar to shed a few pounds, you may not be on the right track, according to the results of a new study.

Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine USA found that the brain can tell the difference between real and artificial sugar. When you eat foods containing artificial sweeteners, your brain can’t tell the difference and makes up for it by giving you even more cravings for sweets later on.

It’s not just in the little packets….If you think about artificial sweetener as only the stuff in the little packets that you mix into coffee, you are missing some of the picture. Artificial sweeteners are used in a number of commercial foods, and in the U.S. about 30 percent of foods are sweetened with sugar substitutes.

In the study, researchers focused their attention on specific brain signals that are associated with determining the difference between sugar and artificial sweeteners. These signals regulate level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls behavior and emotional responses. It is linked with the ability to feel pleasure and pain, and is also linked to addiction.

Using a group of laboratory mice, researchers looked for specific brain circuits while the animals were being fed either sugar or artificial sweeteners. The data they collected found that when hungry mice (who have low sugar levels) are allowed to choose between real sugar and artificial sweeteners, they are more likely to choose the real sugar. The mice preferred the natural product, even when the natural product was much sweeter than the sugar.

If you are looking for a sugar substitute that won’t lead to cravings for more sweets, there is a way to resolve this dilemma. The results of the study, which were published in the Journal of Physiology, suggest that combining the artificial sweeteners with a small amount of sugar to keep energy metabolism up is a viable solution. 

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